Document 510

Diminishing Lines

Author(s): Sheena Blackhall

Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall


Show me your shining Teeth

Splatter-red droplets
Crimson my snow-white thoughts
So empty, a cold mind, you wouldn't believe.

Wolf, I even wish
You'd jump between my ears,
Squat in my inner landscape
Show me your shining teeth.


In the black kitchen
Midnight is two red dots
In a square clock.

I hum quietly
Little fridgy tunes;
Cuddle my marg in frost,
Crystal by crystal
Converting milk to ice.

Diving for Poems: Dhanakosa, Balquidder

Diving for poems, I entered the moon's reflection.
The water swallowed me like a womb,
Like a shark, like a dark friend.
Shadows swam round me; I dipped into the depths, over and over.

Moon poems are beautiful, plucked from inky fathoms.
I would wish for all poem fishers
Little lights set out along the shore
To guide them back

Visibility moderate

A ship sails by wi sides o steel
Torn pennants flee ower sans surreal
The lift is alien. Nae birds flee
Ben this deserted territory.
Bit gin the waves should rise an swey
The Heivens cheenge fae blue tae blae
The mirror crack, the dream growe real
Fit monsters micht the Deep reveal?

Inspired by the painting 'Sea-Washed' by Marian Leven, Aberdeen Artists' Exhibition 2003.

If oceans of shark and fin
Torn rigging and splintered prow
Should suddenly widen, sea pour everywhere,
If the hairbreadth crack in the side of all that's real
Should swamp the cosy world of the here and now,
Watcher, high and dry on the gallery floor
Would you simply stare?

What if the canvas tears? The breakneck tide
Comes tumbling out from the frame,
Great fathoms of gales
Would you hear the screech of gulls,
The icy song of whales,
As your eyes roll back and your dry mouth fills with brine
Watcher, here in the gallery?

Pebbles, Waves, Gulls

Blisters of pebbles rise through sun-tanned sand
Waves topple like dynasties.
Tonnage of salt, slippage of tide, the wreck of an April day
Melting into the strand in gritty shards.
Scabby with barnacles ghost-posts rise from the spray
Where gulls like crosses flex angelic wings.

Sky, Sea, Beach

Sky sinks a shaft of light into the sea
No-one else on the beach
Apparently notices.
A tug-haired toddler pats a bucket of sand
Hammering home the obvious,
Upended like a duckling,
Pink polka dots on her tights,
Spread like cake mix
Dropped in a warm pan
Across her two small buttocks.

The firmament continues to descend.

A herring gull sails grimly through the clouds
Like a cargo boat from Orkney
Laden with sheep. The sky continues to pour
A linn of light down from a Heavenly fissure.

Waves rush to my feet,
Thick with the silt of stars.
A greyhound, skin and bones,
Lollops onto the surf
Shaking the spray from its flanks
Like a shattered rainbow.

Bon Accord

Fae distant ports, the warld's bree
Sweels roon oor sturdy herbour quey.
Doos strut aroon oor Norlan toun,
Far lawyers stride in inky goun,
An seagulls skirl an birl ootbye,
Winged citizen's o evenin sky.
We are gweed hosts, as we hae been
Fur centuries in Aiberdeen
Tae politicians, priests, prelates
An mony wirthy heids o state
Like Kings we treat baith loon an Lord
Oor City's motto? Bon Accord!


Air is a dead cod smell.
Sea has battened its shoals
Under a green hatch.

Tide is nosing the day
Along the beach,
Baring its marble teeth,
Shaking its frothy pelt,
Its roar is storm.

Waves leap ashore,
A hunting pack of ice...
Slubber and swish
Slubber and swish

Six feet down and dropping
Six feet down, dissolving
Shards of sea shells
Crumble into smush,
Ground by the sea-quern
Into coral grits.

The shore is sucking my shoe,
Sardonic salt-mine.
My sand-glass empties
Into the mouth of Time.

Seaman on a Stormy Pier

Out of his depth on land,
A ticking mine, anything sets him off,
Gripping his chipped pipe in his lobster's hand.
Hat like an upturned boat,
He'll grab Fate by the throat.
Storm's brewing. Pier's curving.
Street lights flicker like they're about to fuse.
Sails go whiplash-crack
On the grey cheek of twilight.
Sunset's a fresh bruise.

Coastal Episode: Devon Coast

Pregnant with ale, an Englishman
With walrus cheeks and salty laugh,
Fair-weather Falstaff, soaks in sea
Under a, roasting English sun.
More waif than wife, his other half
Measures blue milk into his tea.
Pale's a communion wafer, she
Shoos off a seagull. Clotted cream
On wings its white pot-belly hangs
On slithering shingle, rasping smush,
Of Britain's end, that ragged seam
Of wishy-washy hurlygush.

White cricketers rub polished balls,
On quintessential English groins,
Railwaymen, traders, teachers, squires
With faces that King Harold knew,
Minted from John Bull's iron loins
The human currency of shires.
A squeeze box wheezes out an air,
Squat pugs with masters, go parading.
A Morris dancer's jangling knees
Please crowds, yet ache to be off wading
Where saucy wavelets slap the sand
And beach hats flop like hot sweet peas.

Oh Archers, Emmerdale, Eastenders
Soapwriters all, could you devise
One episode where wet sands slide
Between pink toes, where no-one dies
And nothing happens, no one sighs
Only the tired, repeating tide.

Bridge of Don

Skyscrapers tile the horizon with slabs of glass
Tulips slash through the ground like galloping lancers
A Taj Mahal of a swan swims past on puff-ball plumes

Diminishing Lines

Striations, gradations, follow their own order,
Their fixed limits.
Shingle-line is buskers, prancers,
Friskers of terriers. Tattooed chancers,
Whippet pee. Strollers with blackthorn legs,
Hair braiders. Sellers of sandals and ice cream,
Whiff o wacky baccy, high and dry.
Candy-stick sunburned trippers, skinny-dipping,
Clothing, dripping. Fairweather punters stripping,
Plastic bags, punching against the wind,
Lobsters shoulders lie beside boulder bums.
Pebble ledge. Sea edge of seagull patrol,
Shoals of screamers, streamers, beamers,
Smiley dogs with loppy stroppy ears.
Shoreline's getting serious...
Bobbers, surfers, divers,
Speed boards. Shoals of larking teens,
Dung knots tugging the sea voluminous skirt.

Far out, waves toss and crash. Red flags rage at the rash.
Powerboats lunge like sharks on a long leash.
Line upon line leads out to the Unknown,
That tenuous haze where sea
Becomes the full and empty sky.

Brig o Balgownie (1)

Brig o Balgownie, stoot's thy waa,
Lang shaddas o heich trees doonfaa,
Onno the wrunkled watter's broo,
Roon banks lulled bi the Don's balloo.
Abeen its archwye, cauld an black,
It cairries cobbles on its back,
Far traivellers dauchle, watchin dyeuks
In convoy, sail fur shady neuks.
Snaadrifts o clouds slide saft thegither
In archetypal simmer weather
Far Don tynes its identity
In the braid quicksans o the sea

A Slice of Sunday

The sky is having a long lie.
A fountain of floating beech leaves
Hangs in the hot air.
The cool grass sucks the river up like a straw.
Bubbles slide on the grave faces of stones.
In the deep fork of a twig,
A green fly abseils through a patch of sun.
In the silences between the crunch of walkers,
The void fills up with sky and road and birdsong.

After the panting of joggers, the jovial 'Good mornings' of walkers,
After the barks and sighs of dogs and excitable children,
The rattle of bicycle wheels, the crackle of boughs,
The day, like a stream healing,
Closes completely over the breaks in its flow.
In the distance, footballers call.
Traffic rumbles and thunders over a bridge
Whose grey foundations are braced against the waves.

Today, I seek no more
Than to feel the sun on my skin
Like a lizard, crawled from the damp
Of a hidden lair, up on a rock to dry,
Moving its eyelids slowly to catch the scene,
Watching the little lights flash by on water.

Brig o Balgownie (2)
Sheela-na-gig: Celtic female fertility symbol

The arch, reflected, shows Sheela-na-gig
Flauntin her braid fertility, as if tae prig
Mankind tae breech the portals o the brig.
Blue kingfisher flees faist, his hame tae bigg,
While dugs stravaig tae sniff an pee unchyned
Mangst reeds that doos micht chuse their reefs tae thigg.
The God o watter looed this bonnie rig,
Fin he howked oot a bed tae haud the Don,
Flanked bi the shady willow's dreepin twig
Ower yon Veenetian gondola, the swan

River in May

A crow's a cross of black in a blue sky
The restless slime tugs at the anchored branch
Such struggling! Eel swims against the stream
Cloud sits, a nest of white on bobbing blossoms

The restless slime tugs at the anchored branch
Fish leaps - a rainbow bridge of falling sound
Cloud sits, a nest of white on bobbing blossoms
Zen stone worn smooth's a moon lies on the bank

Fish leaps- a rainbow bridge of falling sound
Green leaves like grand pianos harbour birdsong
Zen stone worn smooth's a moon lies on the bank
The river constantly unpicks its seams

Green leaves like grand pianos harbour birdsong
A crow's a cross of black in a blue sky
The river constantly unpicks its seams
Such struggling! Eel swims against the stream


I will spikk in ma first-born leid,
Foonert, ferfochan, fey
It is safe an kent,
The lowe is aywis lichtit in the hearth,
Drookit, dowie, dreich
I will spikk in ma first-born leid,
Far short socks hing on the line,
Far the meen an the eirde
Are roon an fixed an hale,
Sleekit, slystery, stoory, stammygaster
I will spikk in ma first-born leid
Glaury, glysterie, gomeril
Afore the buik cam
An the buckled skweelbag
An the pen that aywis blots
Afore I learned that silence wis ma frien.

The Existential Dilemma of Ordinary Object

Igor Kadinsky's mug
Is green and tin with literary pretensions.
It yearns of setting its lip to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky,
Yevtushenko. When steam curls up its sides
It thinks of trains, a hedonistic frisson.

Father O'Rourke's cup
Is stained, with hidden depths.
Its hand is placed on its hip,
Like Marilyn Munro
Descending the stairs
Into a roomful of partying politicians.

Mary Brady's tumbler's secretive,
Hasn't been out for years.
It's in a locked cabinet,
Giving nothing away.

The Laird of Inverquhomerie's silver quaich
Dreams of multiple salivations,
When a quaich was an item
Revered by congregations,
When tongues like little fishes
Licked its sides.


Fin meetin fowk first aff,
Ma Scots sel's aywis latchy.
It's a fey wee body. It winna enter a hoose
Till the hearth's bleezin
The kettle's bylin
It's gotten tae ken the fowk
Coo's tail skelpin,
Niver lifts till last!
Ma English sel goose-steps
Like a Nazi stort-trooper
A caul jeel wauchts fae't
Like an Arctic berg.

The Prosthesis Speaks

I'm reliable. Not pliable.
I never tan: Rain is water
Off my back.
I enjoy, however,
The laying on of oils.

I never lose an ounce,
Or gain a pound.
I am very supportive,
Programmed to serve.
I follow no secret agenda,
Have no axe to grind,
Metal Fatigue's my only niggling angst.

My cousin Henrietta spends her life in a hammock,
Lazy hussy! She's Mrs Alfonso-Parker's
Silicon implant.
She has been fondled by a peer of the realm
And a very short sighted postman.

Fortunately, she's quite a tactile creature.

The Mart

Ram dam lamb lamb ram dam dam ram lamb
Abraham's fall guys. Solid sea of jumpers
Precursors of gloves, socks, toories
Even the black sheep's bringing three bags full.
The wethers are blethers, making sheep's eyes at tups
Who're beginning to show their horns.
Here to be fleeced, like falling dominoes,
Sheep follow the leader, are a dictator's dream
The penny never drops they've been stitched up.


Eek! I am a sheet of the line,

Wumf! I am a pillow
Fawning into the billows of the wind.

Crack! I am a linen shirt
Arcing and flapping,
Like an American flag.

I am a quilt-slip,
Playing fast and loose with air.

Whump! I am a tablecloth
In full sail,
Suddenly caught by the tail.

Slump! We are the washing.


I bigg poems, pages, whyles hale buiks
Ooto roch wirds howked fae ma fowk's spikk,
Ooto the dubs an glaur, the tcyauve an plyter
O their life's darg. A warld that nippit their thochts,
That clippit their wirds like oo.
Wirds war cairdit threids, fae ma deid gran, minnie's moo.
She wis the roch waa o a cauld byre,
A bield, a cyarn o rocks.
My faither wis the grit, held it thegither
Agin the dreich onchancy warld o cheenge.
I hae taen their waa. I hae smeethed ae side o't
Made o't a genteel, English side, that's freemit.
Gib ye scrat aff the peint, wud bogles roar aneth it
The lowe o dispossession roars in the teem range.

Shopping Trolley

I am a shopping trolley. I am hooked on pushers,
They strip the shelves like locusts.
Bikers zoom me round with granite fists.
Pensioners slump over me like caterpillars,
Babies are dumped in me like pupae.
I whizz through plastic jungles of bananas
To the surprisingly friendly cackle of plastic hens.

I am a shopping trolley. I am heavily into Zen.
I am a metal meditator. One day I may levitate
Over the drinks aisle, frightening the alkies.

I am a water carrier. This bottle on my spars
Contains the following:
(Please read before swallowing)
Calcium quinine magnesium
Chloride sodium potassium
Sulphate nitrate
If you've a dicky prostate
Avoid this mineral water at all costs.
It harbours aluminium and iron
The ideal drink for thirsty horse shoes
Parched park railings, dehydrated nests of non-stick pans.

Dialogue with table

We have taken away your forest,
Replaced it with a kitchen.
Don't tell us you liked the owl
With his hootings and lootings,
Or the faithless birds
That fled your coop each Autumn.
Ingrate, it is useless to deny it...
When the light is dimmed,
We have heard you groan and sigh.

We civilised you, table. Took you in from the cold.
Wind shall not rot you, nor the rain decay.
Why are you not ecstatic?

The Horticultural Poem

This is a horticultural poem
About horticultural things,
Of reeds and weeds, where sycamore seeds
Have horticultural wings.

The wind in the West has all the zest
Of a punch from a fist of clover,
In the wheezy East it's a perfect beast
When the cabbages bowl you over.

I'd go for a walk, but on every stalk
The whin seeds are exploding.
By that quiet rill, drawn up for the kill,
New rifles of pods are loading.

From armies of sedge, platoons of hedge
Breed bristles strong and sharp.
Beware that petal, it hides a nettle
Whose bite's as bad as his bark!

Daisy Chain

I am watching a tiny daisy in the grass
In twenty minutes it has not moved one inch

It has not lowered the drawbridge of the day
So that light may canter over its flag of gold

In twenty minutes
Seven dappled shadows have blown their patterns
Over its sundial face

I think it has grown tired of rehearsing for Winter
I think perhaps it is plotting to tear
The calendar of the leaves
Into a thousand petals raging across the grass

Persley Walled Garden
Opened 1997 for the S. T. U. C. Centenary Commemoration of Workers Memorial Day.

A walled garden Surrounded by:

one deer of an excitable disposition
three vandals in top of the range trainers.
a castleful of O.A.Ps
a constipation of traffic

Flown over by:
arthritic pigeons with iron hinges
a plethora of planes
a sparrow which unaccountably dropped its nest

Smelling of:
four star petrol
assorted herbs

Slithered upon by:
a spaghetti of worms
an ooze of snails

rising damp in the lawn which is shaved to a number one
one coy tesco bag tucked under a hedge's wing
a concrete pre-cast fountain with nozzle implants
a thrush enjoying a cold collation of Red Thai chicken salad
a rose's foreskin pulled back red and crinkly releasing a single drop
of wobbly dew

And all marked out like a freemason's apron, measured and made precisely, like
Louis the Sun King's parterres at Versailles.

Live workers tribute to dead workers
Resting in peace after the final whistle.

A solitary
crawls over a bag of crisps.

The Veggies Response to the Vegan

'What manner of person,' implored the Tahini,
'Made me from the wreck of another's bambini?
They cried 'Open Sesame', shattered her head
In my jar there's a trillion young Sesames, dead.'

'As for me,' cried the fiery, outrageous Pimento,
How rude to wrench me from the land of flamenco,
To sit like a lemon, my soul on the block
Awaiting the guillotine crash of the chop!'

The turnip, the broccoli, onion and leek,
Arose in a body, gave vent to a shriek,
'Do you know how it feels,' they berated the chef,
'To be notes without music, with no treble clef?
To be torn from the earth, for a soup or a stew,
To feed two legged predator vegans like you?'

The cabbage said, 'Plainly, you haven't a heart,
Oh the gallons of scallions you've torn apart!'
And the aubergine paled neth her Persian élan,
When the cook poured the salt in the foot of the pan.

The mushrooms grew maudlin. The spring onions wept,
The parsnips grew angry and punched the courgette.
The potato made eyes at a Golden Delicious,
The chilli turned red and incredibly vicious.

But the carrot was silent. For once through the grate
He'd entered Nirvana, the non-veggie state.

Bluebell Wood

Bluebell wood on a flapjack day
Six jade jewels
Clustered round a brooch
Bluebottles nuzzling
A glistening ball of dung


TREE as a name
Doesn't grow as a tree does.
It does not sprout letters in Spring
Nor lose them in Winter. Birds do not sing
In the branches of
Nor do they nest
In the white spaces of a page.
Clouds do not rest
On the tops of the printed word.
The stars do not shine through the print
Nor does the snow steal up the stems of ink
Soft, like a dove breathing.

Tree of Life

White brain stem. Neurons' tendrils
Can twist or travels straight to the heart of the matter
The Brain's the Tree where Knowledge sits and sings

In the windy Ship of the Skull the Mind peers out
From two round portholes, scanning the sea for icebergs

Tree Bark

Amber centipede, like a spill of treacle
Slithers over the cracked hide that is bark.
Bark, like hard-baked mud,
Was once a honey pot of wood,
Dripping with resin, seeping with sap and growth.
Death is lightening its load,
Buoyant as cork, thatched with emerald feathers of moss,
It is crossing the Sylvan Styx
With a cargo of tiny insects, crumbling into the forest
Season by Season. See...Seed...Season
Easing out of its structures,
Into its essence.

Conference of the Snails
after a conversation with Angus Calder on gasteropods and their wonderful crenellations

Brothers, we are slithered here together
In full flood, to ooze.
Our manifesto's a convoluted trail,
A trellis of slime set out in the best Celtic manner
With a flourish.

This venue of a row-boat is most apt.
We shall be launched in moonlight,
Secretive as the magnificent Masons.
Our ceremonies shall include
Horn weavings, ritual munchings of air and mulch.
All mention of shellings to be punishable by exposure to a thrush
With long beak and no table manners.

We shall inaugurate a brotherhood of slugs.
Worms to inhabit the lower orders,
Split-backed bugs to be our emissaries.
The founder of our Faith was a visionary, Monsieur Pierre Lune
Who slipped from a rainy taxi in Paris under a whore's umbrella
To be eaten as a martyr.

We are a closed order. We colonise the dark.
Such stereotypes those humans! So alike!
Pifft! Such nonentities!
Whereas we, beloveds, are most beautiful, mysterious,
Infinite in variety, the Chosen.
Our hymns and humours are divinely damp
As Lucretia Borgia's vulva.

Anoint your antennae with Nivea! Each shell is a sculpture in motion, Sliding
through the parting air inhabited moistly by mushrooms.

We are a glide of turbans.
Our tiny horns are minarets of joy!

Kai Moon's Dip

Hua! The mahout's toes tap Kai-moon's scabby ears
That flap like rudders in the slipstream heat.
The jungle hits you with a wall of warmth.
Elephant hide feels bullet proof,
A bursting horse hair sofa

Being carried on Kai-moon's back
Is to brush the treetops on a moving mountain,
Each ponderous thigh creaks in its curtain of skin.
Her footprints gouge out bowls in the ochre mud.

We reach a pool that is mosquito heaven.
The horizon heaves,
Kai-moon has stopped to drink.
The mahout nudges her and down we sink
Into the chocolate pool through man-high reeds
Like a house sucked into quicksand.
The water's now a handspan from my feet.

Burned charcoal-black beneath the tropic skies,
This Thailand matriarch enjoys her dip.
Her drowned trunk periscopes up,
Snorkels and squirts,
Swallows the murky water.
I pray she doesn't develop the urge to wallow.

She doesn't. Wet and dripping she emerges
Into the scorching day,
Swaying into the steaming, humming leaves.


Peppercorn, peppercorn, fae hae ye been?
I've been tae Asia, that's far I hae been.
Peppercorn, peppercorn, fit did ye there?
I touched up a boodle on Tienamen Square.


An aa thon years I thocht ye gaed tae Perth
Fur genteel holidays, takkin the air wi bankers,
Grocers, solitary widows like yersel,
Strollin the streets, a slider in yer haun,
Listenin in ceevic park tae brash brass band.

Ooto the blue the truth's bin run tae earth...
Nae Perth bit en suite in the Hoose o Daviot.
A fey hotel, an inmate's view o Bedlam.
Oh stigma, oh stigmata. Oh persona non grata.
Did siller makk insanity seem sweeter?
Fur entertainment, veesits tae the theatre
Electric shocks tae jolt ye back tae kilter.

Did siller takk the sting ooto the shame?
Ye'd nae hae tholed the rammy o a ward
Far ithers wanner oot an in o sanity.
Ye missed oot there..there's comfort in the kennin
Yer nae the anely soor cheese in the pantry.

Asylum. Bywird fur a haley haven.
A sanctuary. A safety and a bield,
Fae village sklaik wi aa its slichts an slanders,
The Hoose o Daviot wad bin a shield
Wi a revolivin door, on hinges hung,
Far minds wheeled roon that whyles cam unsprung.

An easy fleggit vratch, my memory hauds
Ye coontin aff lang years wi lanely crosses.
Foo weel they dug a pit wi gleamin spaads,
Tae hap yer hurts wi sods, like tainted losses.
Yet, if upon yer flesh ye'd worn yer wounds
The balm o sympathy wad ken nae bounds.

Did Buttons bring strange potions on his tray?
Yer grave is green. The blaik yird winna say.
Yer public face wis private. Burnished braisse
We'll keep' like thon. The lave is blawn aisse.

Midnight House Upon a Summer's Day

Insanity is never the horror rooftop hit by lightning,
The Gothic stairway, the shaggy streaming hair.
It is when the day fuses quietly like a light bulb.
It is when looking down, the hands in the sink
Inside the yellow gloves, seem to belong to a stranger.
It is when the midnight house upon a summer's day
Makes time tick like a bomb. Ah, then the street lamp
Is the Cyclops only eye, staring so intently into the pool
It does not seem to have notice it has drowned.
It does not notice the sky is a white Armada,
Calmly sailing off through chartered seas, far away
Beyond the crackling stairs, burning down known checkpoints,
Devil's familiars.


If you cut a melon, it will cry. Squeeze it, it cries even more.
Who holds the key to unlock childhood's door?
But coal is hard and black. Its pain is trapped.
Hard tears can wait a long time to be tapped.

Epitaph for a Healer : for Jim

God only likes nice girls and tidy boys,
But you sat down with me, un-nice, no-good,
In a way that nobody's parents ever would.
Safe, to say the unsayable in that room,
And oh the relief of dropping all pretences,
Raising the drawbridge, lowering the defences!

Now I would walk through living coals to take
Your hand in mine, kind ghost, for pity's sake
Actions, more than epithets can tell
You were a man who loved his fellows well
Who'd guide them back from No-Mind's dark abyss
To sweeter vistas, pin-stripe Theseus.


Only a god could pull a stunt like that,
Like plucking a plumb from a pie past its sell-by date.
There are lines which should not be crossed,
Lairs should be left unopened. Death made living flesh is miraculous
But also barbarous.
It doesn't seem right ... like trawling the night
And catching the moon in a bucket, just for the hell of it.
Quite a show, as spiritual parlour tricks go.
But what of the gape in the ground? What becomes of the status quo
When the dead start shillyshallying to and fro?
What if, to your surprise the dead did rise,
Long after time had chosen to erase them?
Would you look them in the eyes? Would you turn and face them?

The Hiccuping Directory

Anderson, A
Anderson, B
And- And- And- And
Anderson, C.

Cruickshank, B
Cruickshank, D
Cruick -Cruick -Cruick -Cruick
Cruickshank, V

Macafferty, F
Macafferty, G
Macafferty, T.

Williams, A
Williams, P
Williams, V

The Valla Yeitie
Inspired by the singing of Nichole Robertson 12/11/2000

Doon the centuries daunced the sang,
Prood an fine like a slaw Strathspey,
Like flooers o the rodden, licht an fine,
The blossom afore the crammosie.

Whiles twid reest in the antrin throat,
That gart it craik like a corbie's craa,
Coarse, fur a bonnie tune like thon,
Tae be malagaroosed, an it sae bra.

Precious, a culture's flickerin flame,
Kinnelt an kept bi the traiveller's kin,
Cannie, thon hauns that cupped it roan,
Shieldin an heirskip fae the win.

On a nicht o stars in a Norlan toon,
The gangrel tune fand a siller reest,
Fin a gowden heidit quine steppt up,
An lent thon sang baith braith an breist.

Syne, throw the howf in thon cauld airt,
The past swept by on bleedin feet,
For the sang wis cruel as the tale wis auld,
O a bairn an its mither left tae greet.

Ye micht hae heard a preen doonfaa,
Fin Sorra chappit the door ajee,
As the singer jyned wi a quine langsyne,
Tae gie her dule tae Eternity.

Nae a note nor a wird she chynged,
Nor bi artifice, sikk tae smore't,
Up frae foun o a quine thon nicht,
Hairtbrak itsel tuik wing an soared.

Singing Event

It's good to sit in the grass of an old pasture,
Watching the summer light cross-cross the field,
Threading the air, the hum of hazy insects,
The dyke behind composing July's epitaph.
Cool tombstone, lichen respite for a fly
When work cogs stop. All needless converse ceased.

It's good to sit awhile, apart from Time. To observe the hay
Coddle the hooves of piebald, grazing cattle
As it has done for furrowed centuries,
To watch a plough horse whisk away a gnat
From its chestnut rump, is gentle the eye.

Grass, cattle, strollers, birds...All share a common journey
Stepping down to the same low destination
When the glorious Sun in the sky withdraws its favour.

Not yet. A human voice carries a song from a tent
Rising and falling over the swaying, rhythmic hay
Out of body, a drifting lovely air
High as a swallow floating into the wood.

Pantheist in a Hey Park

On simmer nichts, I'd herd the bairns like kye
Tae Waukmill wids, up tae the trinklin burn
Tae wash the stoons o day fae their foonert feet.

Village fires war lichtit, rikk furled skywird.
Craas, like doorstops perched on the antrin post,
There, far I'd sprauchle oot in the hey's saft bed.

Dreepin inno ma lug, the blaikie's notes,
Drapt frae the derkenin mou o the warm gloamin.
Win, like Vulcan's bellas, blawin the beech alive.
Here, thocht tuik flicht, jyned wi the soarin hawk

Winter's Wytin Roon the Neuk

Widdershins the breezes blaw,
Seety-feathered corbies craa,
Winter's wytin roon the neuk,
Shakks his wizzent powe an cleuk,
Dunts the antrin leaf awa...
Nicht growes langer. Berries faa.

Snifter-dichter in the sheugh,
Snaa'll be wi us seen eneuch,
Breets coor hungeret in their hames,
Beens'll powk throwe wastit warnes.

Sae this day I gaither oo,
Catch the sunlicht on my broo,
Gaither warmth afore it's hid,
Stap the jar an steek the lid.

The Veesitor

Ben the nicht on frostit taes, an eildtrich carl trod the braes,
Shilpit shanks an hudderie hair, creepit fae a stormy lair.

His lang beard wis taiglit oo, cauld his shadda bell the dyew,
Sib tae starns an waukrife meen, shards o Sorra in his een.

In his pack, baith deep an wide, gleanins fae the kintraside,
He'll pit ferlies rich an rare.... Putrifee their sweetness there.

Twa grey deerhounds lean an thin, ane afore him, ane ahin,
Lowp aroon his hirplin fit, the gangrel wi the kirkyaird smit.

Ben Balquidder, late yestreen, strippin leaf fae runkled gean,
Cam a carl I ken ower weel. Winter, wi his deidly creel.

A Brocher's Fareweel: for George Bruce 1909-2002
Tune: Tarwathie

Fareweel tae Auld Faithlie, adieu Mormond Hill,
Fur the virr o a Brocher is sattled an still.
He is takkin a voyage, grey oceans tae cross,
An the skreich o the scurries rings lood wi oor loss.

He will niver lie weel in a lang timmer sark,
He wis niver a Makar fa coddlit the Dark.
Kandinsky, Nijinski, Beethoven an Blake,
Ye've a fier comin ower will kittle yer claik.

Oh there's mony he'll ken o the fowk that bide there,
Fur it's thrang wi the ferlies o speerit an air,
Wi Pound, Yeats an Eliot weel he'll belang,
Tir nan Og's far the gowden an gracious are thrang.

The price that the ferryman takks is his braith,
Fin a life's at its lees syne richt kindly comes Daith,
An aff tae the lan o Tam Linn he is gaen,
Like a wave - skelpin dolphin that's briestin the faem.

Fareweel tae Auld Faithlie, adieu Mormond Hill,
Fur the virr o a Brocher is sattled an still.
He is takkin a voyage, grey oceans tae cross,
An the skreich o the scurries rings lood wi oor loss.


Two tables along from two Dutch lovers whispering
And a housemaid pushing a broom, three sparrows hop round a menu.
A flea-bitten dog climbs onto a seat, not ordering, lolling abundantly.

This is not reciprocal. I do not perch on sparrow's branch,
Or slouch in the brown dog's kennel.

Moreover, not content with patronising the eatery,
Even now three sparrows are hopping about this page,
The flea-bitten dog is lolling across this poem.


Waiters and watchers, hand-wringers, knuckle-crackers
Nudgers and whisperers, sweet sucking, crisp crunching visitors
Sit through the clockwork evening, in the always-lit reception
Where the sun does not go down.
Where no draught may go,
In-patients, out-patients, live patients, dead patients,
(All of the walking wounded)
Throng long corridors leading to cells of pain
And the relief of pain.
Death's entourage is here. The bric a brac of bones.
Cold operating tables, dripping red.
Bruises like blackberries. The suck and throb
Of wriggling drips, like soft-feeding lampreys.
The silence of the surgically dead.

The potted plants are a dead giveaway:
No greenfly live on their unmoving leaves,
Dust nests there like fine crematoria ash.
Signs breed like mice on every space and sleeve.
Plastered on every wall the hall allows
Effigies of fossilised consultants
Stare into middle distance, like dull cows.

Beyond the bleary windows, the March sky
Slides like a glacier, slipping from its berth.
Citizen Blackbird folds his sooty wings
Lances a maggot, wombed in Mother Earth.

The Merriege o Convenience
On Sir William Quiller Orchardson's painting "Mariage De Convenance"

Auld men, like dry sticks, easy brakk
An should tak tent they dinna wed
Young wives, fur they will surely shakk
The siller fae their pooch, syne bed
Some young an lusty gallus loon
Will set the horns upon their croon.
A hoose, tho braw an bricht's a preen
Is unca dreary aa yer leen.


Orange is
Slogans, fists and drums,
Frightened women closing windows and doors,
Children snatched from the street.

Orange is
Xmas morning. A window of frosted stars,
A tangerine like a huge carbuncle
Down at the toe of a woolly sock,
Its coat tugged quickly off
Like a fat lady's on a hot day.

Orange is a
A magnificent mincing cat
Walking across the room,
Its tail erect and waving.

Orange is marmalade toast,
Slowly melting into bread
While roasted coffee pours.

Orange is rioting petticoats
In a hot Brazilian fiesta.

Orange is
Pips afloat in the moat of a squeezer,
Launched in a squirt to soothe a streaming cold.

Orange is
A tease. Not as easily won
As a Cox's Pippin,
It requires foreplay to get its juices flowing.

Orange is
Cheap and plastic, a Woolworth's picnic cup,
Or Buddhist cool in meditation robes.

A Jesus Sandwich

Coffee and cream,
Straight stocking seam,
Two old gossips finger wag, belly sag,
Eyebrows raise. Seen better days.
Lordy, Lordy,
A special view of relativity!

This country, she go to the dogs!
Gravity roots them to their seats,
Infinity rattles the atoms in their bones.
They've bagged a Bible apiece
Lordy Lordy
A Jesus sandwich.

The Telling Poem

I would like to tell this poem why I write,
This paper I drag my pen along,
Like a thin shadow.
The paper listens deeply.
It has opened its face,
It has emptied its hairt,
It is waiting for me to start.

So, I begin.
I ring the bell to call the slow thoughts in.
They come like monks,
Their alms hidden in pouches.
I tell the story
Short and sharp's a sigh.
I may make the paper wait.
I may torment it.
There is a time for food,
A time for fasting.

I am a wine-maker
Today the grapes are young
The wine is not for tasting.

Ruin by a Cornfield

The slate roof had been leeched by barns and byres
Wide to the sky, it was a nest for swifts,
A drop-in centre for rain.

It rode my childhood dreams, that ruined house,
Dappled sunbeams stippling its flanks,
Whisper of cornfields rustling in its ears.

Mouse-fur in its hearth, ferns in its kitchen,
Nettles in its sink, it was harled by lichen,
Cabbage whites, its moving wallpaper.
The wind sang in its bones, a happy kettle

It always ate me up, a hungry host,
Eager for human visitation
Eager to hear a voice that was not a bird's

It filled my memory's pockets full of clover,
Roddens, sun. The gold and emerald fields.

Pollockshields East

Koran. Ramadan,
Pollock, Pollock, Pollock, Pollock,
Ran-dan, breid n' jam,
Punjab keelies, Glesga Hindis,
New Delhis weirin wellies, Lad-brokes, arti-chokes,
Turbanned weans, curried beans,
Quines in sahris, Arctic larries,
Wee swally, Shug an Ali,
Pollock Pollock Pollock Pollock
Pollockshields East,
Urdu's fand a reist,
train rinnin, tootin, stoppin,
Dev is here tae dae his shoppin,
train stoppin, hop in, hop in,

In a Hindu Temple. Aarti Ceremony, dusk, Jaipur

Merrymatanzie o mochs, bricht dragonflees
Waucht ben a temple that's ableeze wi licht,
A merble pantheon o Ganesh, Siva, Kali, Hanuman,
Butterlamps glent bi alabaster shrines
Upheld by jewelled an scented sahri quines,
Gowd stoor fae Heiven's billion waukenin starns
Floats wi lotus petals on fower bowls.

Three Hindu priests wauk forrit tae the altar,
Heids bood like oxen yieldin tae the yoke.
Abeen their chantin, chink o tinklin bells,
Drawn curtains offer Lakshmi, Narayan
Twa deities, the Aarti gift o Licht.

The preists skirp ritual watter ower the fowk
Twa fat dreeps trickle, cruiked, ower my broo,
Inno the runnles o my Scottish chikk,
Into the cracks anither lan has cuttit.

Titles of Poems Currently Incubating

- The Aperitif that is the Brig o Balgownie
- A Poem to be whispered behind Wheelie Bins
- The Penance of Greyfriar's Bobby
- The Muscular Soul of the Owl
- What the Cloud said to the Satellite
- The Dead Bird's Last Song
- Lassooing a Small Back Street

Now and Again

Now and again a bubble breaks from the loch,
Fir shadows change like shoppers
Shifting seats in fast food bars.

Now and again no wind disturbs green leaves,
The moon comes out and with it no bright stars.

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The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Diminishing Lines. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 12 July 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Diminishing Lines." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 12 July 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Diminishing Lines," accessed 12 July 2024,

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 510

Diminishing Lines


Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 6319

Text publication details

Publisher Self: Limited Edition / Thistle Reprographics
Publication year 2004
Place of publication Aberdeen

Text type

Other Collection of poems


Author details

Author id 112
Forenames Sheena
Surname Blackhall
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up Protestant, now Buddhist
Occupation Writer and supply teacher
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Aberdeen
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Manager of Deeside Omnibus Service
Father's place of birth Aboyne
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Private Secretary
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes Elementary. Gaelic choir. Poetry.
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes